For anyone who hasn't seen the announcement first...here it is:
Engagement Announcement Slideshow
The day began quite early. I was up at 6am for an 11am wedding. My hairstylists would be at the church at 8am. Since I was also moving to Colorado right after the wedding, I had to pack my few remaining bags and boxes into what would become the "getaway car," before going to the church. No time once I left home to come back for anything.
To say things were frantic would be an understatement, but we made it by just a few minutes after 8. I and one of my bridesmaids sat down to have our hair done. The rest of the bridal party would be arriving around 9.
But let me backtrack just slightly to the day before.
I had told everyone to bring their rollerblades because we'd be running all day. That wasn't far from the truth. At 10am, the women were at the church to decorate while the men went to do their final tux fittings and pick up their tuxes. They met us at the church around 11:30 for a 12:00noon rehearsal. However, that morning, I ended up locking my keys in the car just as we were pulling out of the drive. Mom called for me to get some ice, and since the power locks lock when you start the car, I got out and promptly shut the door. ACK!
So, we spent the next 20 minutes finding a tool to sneak between the door and the bodyframe that was long enough to hit the power switch. We made it to the church by 10:30, late enough that everyone else gathered had time to swap "stories" about me and get to know one another. :) With my husband-to-be and his family coming from Colorado and North Carolina, and 2 other of my bridesmaids coming from Nashville and Illinois, it was quite an experience getting everyone together.
Thankfully, the church decorating didn't take long, and once everyone was assembled, the rehearsal began right on time. We ran through everything twice, with the only hitch being that I hadn't heard from the rehearsal dinner location to finalize our menu choices. That call came just at the end of the second walk-through, so I left my "groom" standing at the back of the church to take the call. :) At least I didn't leave him standing at the altar!
With the rehearsal done and a confirmation from the restaurant received, we all got in our cars and headed to the reception site to decorate the hall. However, there was a lane closure on a bridge on the route there, so I spent 20 minutes calling everyone and redirecting them down another road. For the locals, it was easy, but for Stuart's family, it was a challenge. En route, I got a call from the events coordinator at the hall asking when we would be there. I explained the situation, and she graciously extended our 2-hour time slot to 5pm since we would be an hour late.
So, around 3, we arrived, but plans to grab a bite to eat had been skipped, so we sent 2 people on a food run while everyone else got to work. The hall began as an empty room and made a beautiful transformation to a fairytale setting. And we finished by 5pm. That's when everyone changed for the rehearsal dinner, and we were soon on our way. After the hectic pace up to that point, sitting down for a few hours to talk, share, laugh and rest was a welcome relief. The food was delicious, and the atmosphere couldn't have been more perfect.
Around 8pm, we started to disperse with the promise that we'd see each other tomorrow at the church. My bridesmaids had decided to throw me a bachelorette party that night (since this was the only time they'd all been together), but they needed some time to set up. So, I took Stuart back to the hotel and waited for their call. Our parting was easier than I thought it would be, considering the next time we saw each other would be at the altar. We both couldn't believe the day had finally arrived.
After some fun with my bridesmaids (the details of which will remain a mystery), I arrived home around midnight and crashed for 6 hours. That brings me to the day of the wedding!
As I stated above, I was up at 6am, at the church at 8, and the rest of the bridesmaids were there by 9am. Dad brought us some breakfast, and everyone made sure I ate something. They were all fussing over me, and I began to feel like a true princess. Of course, if you ask my flower girl, that's just what I was...tiara and all. :) She was enamored of me the entire day and hardly left my side.
I wish I remembered more of the ceremony, but as I was locked in the bridal room, there isn't much to tell. Perhaps some of my family and friends who were there will share comments and add to what I'm sharing. (To those of you who fall into that category reading this....HINT, HINT!)
Anyway, the time came for us to line-up and prepare for our entrance. A couple final pictures beforehand, and the ceremony began. Obviously, I can't tell you about the processional other than when Dad led me from the room down the hall to the sanctuary doors. It all seemed so much like a dream. I felt like I was floating on a cloud when the trumpet fanfare from the piece called "Danielle's Wings" from the movie, Ever After, sounded and I made my entrance. Everyone stood and turned and I paused under the floral archway at the back of the church. Then, the soft strains of violins and piano sounded as I took my first step down to the aisle.
After a few seconds, I caught sight of my groom, resplendent in a black tux and looking every bit the part of the handsome prince. My gaze didn't waver from that point to the end of the aisle. He had a slight grin on his face as the pastor began the ceremony, and I waited for the time when Dad would give me away. After the opening prayer and welcome, that time had come. Dad lifted my veil and placed a kiss on my cheek. That's when Stuart stepped forward and accepted my hand from Dad. As Dad took his seat next to Mom, the pastor led Stuart and me along with the matron of honor (Angie, one of my best friends) and best man (Sam, Stuart's brother) up the stairs to the stage.
This is where it gets really foggy...and I know I won't do this part of the "fairytale" justice. Thankfully, I have the rehearsal in my mind to help. I stood facing Stuart as the ceremony continued. We said so much with our eyes and nonverbal communication and hardly looked away from each other. Somehow, we managed to get through our vows, which we had written (both of us ad-libbed from what we had planned), then came the exchange of the rings, a charge from the pastor for each of us individually and us as a couple, and pronouncement of us as husband and wife. Then came our first kiss as a married couple. Stuart lifted my veil and I could see the glimmer of tears shining in his eyes. Mine teared up too, but they were tears of joy that this day had finally come.
Our first act as husband and wife was to take holy communion together, so we moved to the back of the stage to do that while my worship leader sang a solo. It's an awesome thing to thank God for our marriage and make a pledge through Communion that we'll commit our marriage and lives to Him. Marriage is difficult enough. How couples make it without God in the center, I'll never know.
From there, we moved to another table where two candle tapers were lit. We each took one and together lit the center "unity" candle. We then each took a small vial of "dirt" from our homes (mine was sand from a Delaware beach and Stuart's was red dirt from the Colorado soil) and poured it into a slightly larger glass container. The symbolism of both the candles and dirt is that our lives our now forever entwined and as difficult to separate as the blended dirt or the flame that burned from the two tapers lighting it.
Now, we'd reached the time for a surprise. Two white roses had been placed on that same table, so we each took one and walked down the steps to present them to our mothers. With a kiss and hug, we both thanked them for their support, love and time invested raising us and bringing us to this point. Then, we made our way back to the stage and stood with joined hands as the soloist finished.
The pastor once again prayed over us, then introduced us for the first time as "Mr. & Mrs. Stuart Stockton"! We waited for the recessional music to begin, then led the way amidst cheers and clapping to the back of the church. Because we had decided to skip the receiving line, we waited for the wedding party to enter the foyer, then Stuart and I returned with Angie and Sam to dismiss everyone by row. It took less time and moved things along at a nicer pace. The wedding party waited with bottles of bubbles in the foyer and directed the guests outside. Once everyone was gone, Stuart and I came outside under a shower of bubbles and headed toward a small box and a larger basket holding a total of 14 doves.
After listening to instructions by the dove owner, Stuart and I took the string and pulled. Two doves flew out and into the air over our heads. Next, the larger basket was placed on the ground in front of us. This time, a thicker rope cord held down the lid. So, again, Stuart and I grabbed the cord and pulled. The remaining 12 doves (in pairs) flew out. One pair needed a little coaxing, but finally joined the rest in the air, circling above us. This release symbolizes another promise of hope and forever. Doves have long been a symbol of promise, and they mate for life, so their partnership symbolizes the lifelong commitment Stuart and I make to each other. I saw the idea at a bridal show earlier this year and knew we had to include it.
With that done, the ceremony had come to a close. We mingled a little with the guests, but before long, everyone headed toward their cars to go to the reception, and the wedding party went back inside for pictures. Our photographer was great, and we were ready to head to the reception by just before 1pm, which was when it began. So, we made sure we had everything cleaned up from the church that we needed, then all got in our cars for the drive to the reception. Stuart's parents drove us in their silver luxury rental car.
Like yesterday, the bridge lane was still closed, so Dad called to tell us to go the same way we did the day before. Everyone else had gone the original way. As it turns out, we should have too...because when we reached the major road heading south, traffic was at a standstill due to a fatal accident on the highway and cars were coming back up the on-ramp to go another way. So, on to plan C, only that road was backed up too. We saw my parents ahead of us, so moved into the other lane to follow them. Using my mother-in-law's cell phone, I reached them to find out we were trying one of the local roads. It started looking good, but before long, we came to a stop again.
Worried as I watched the minutes pass on the clock and wondering who else was stuck in this traffic delay, I tried to make the best of things. There wasn't much I could about the situation anyway, so I snuggled against my new husband and sat back for the ride. Turned out only my parents and older brother had gotten stuck. Everyone else went the original way and got there fine. So, they waited for us for over an hour. We finally arrived around 2:30pm after hearing that our DJ had kept everyone entertained with contests, music, jokes, and fun. Praise God for that DJ! Despite the delay, everyone was having a great time.
Although everyone had already eaten, the wedding party gathered and lined up for our introductions. With humor and candid remarks, the DJ announced each pair as we all made our way to the front of the hall. Once seated, the reception continued as planned. We all took time to eat as music continued to play. The clinking of the glasses commenced as Stuart and I shared kisses in the celebration, and we had several guests come up to chat.
A little after 3pm, Stuart and I had our first dance, followed by my dance with my father and Stuart's dance with his mother. Then, the entire wedding party came onto the floor, followed by a general invitation for the guests. Some had to leave early, so we bid them goodbye, but most were still there when it came time for the cutting of the cake. Stuart and I also had a tradition passed from my parents of drinking from the "bridal cup." It was a silver cup in the shape of a woman with a flared skirt and arms upraised holding a small bucket over her head. When turned upside down, the skirt (inlaid with bronze and copper) became the cup for the groom. The small bucket was on hinges that allowed it to swing. It became the cup for the bride. History has it that the bride and groom drink from this cup simultaneously, but the bride cannot touch the cup with her hands, only her mouth. However many drops that fall is how many children the couple will have.
I only dropped two. :)
Now for the cake. The DJ took a verbal poll on who wanted "mean" and who wanted "nice." It was about an even split. Stuart and I had decided beforehand that we'd be making a mess, so taking the knife together we cut two slices, then each took a good-sized piece and held them up. After getting some into each other's mouths, we then had fun. I smeared and decorated his nose and forehead. Stuart smushed and got some up my nose. We had a lot of fun, and so did our guests. Made for some great pictures too!
After cleaning each other of the cake mess, we continued with the rest of the reception. This included a solo dance by my husband (surprising to me!) to some 70's disco music. I believe it was Uncle Jim who put the DJ up to it. Either that or his sister, Shauna. Regardless, he did a great job. Next came the tossing of the bouquet. After the single ladies gathered, I turned my back and let the bouquet fly. Onc it was caught, the DJ came to say that toss didn't count, because he hadn't gone over the rules. So, I had to do it all again. This time, 2 more ladies joined the small group and the DJ had me do a fake toss. The ladies who went for it were moved to the back for the official toss. The real one went high and long and was caught by my older brother's girlfriend.
This set the stage for the garter removal, where Stuart wasn't quite as "devilish" as he hinted he might be. Still, he had some fun. :) Now, it was his turn to throw the garter to the single men. Because my older brother's girlfriend had caught the bouquet, the men were holding him back from catching the garter, since whoever caught it would have to place the garter on the leg of the lady who caught the bouquet. After some scrambling, it was actually another groomsmen (Stuart's best friend) who caught it. With my brother standing close by, arms crossed, Chad kneeled in front of Tina and slid the garter as high up as she would let him. With appropriate music, it made for an entertaining experience.
By now, it was a little after 4pm. One-third of the guests had gone, and the reception became more of a low-key celebration. Some fun dances, candid photos and all-in-all fun commenced. The DJ kept things going, and Stuart and I made plans to leave. But first, we had to allow the appearance of my "infamous" Tiki-bird slippers and Stuart's dinosaur mask. So, I got rid of my heels (and my feet thanked me) and replaced them with the slippers. Stuart put on his mask and we posed for a few pictures. We even got one where I'm kissing the mask. :) The princess kissed the dragon, and he turned into a handsome prince!
Like all good things, the reception started to wind down. Stuart and I had Uncle Jim round up our change of clothes and bring them to a spare room. Since we weren't supposed to go outside until we were leaving, Stuart kept me there until we were sure we had everything while the family and wedding party made sure our "getaway car" was appropriately decorated and all of our final belongings stowed inside. Thankfully, because the SUV was full, they couldn't do much to the interior. But the groomsmen had fun with the exterior!
With hugs and final goodbyes (since most of them, I wouldn't be seeing for who knows how long), Stuart and I headed for the car and left...tin cans and balloons dragging behind us. With a 4-hour drive ahead of us to the honeymoon resort, we settled in for a peaceful ride, complete with music, munchies and the joy of our love putting smiles on our faces.
The rest of the story will come on Monday with a few more pictures. Hope you've enjoyed this tale. And for those of you family and friends who were there, feel free to fill in the blanks of special memories you had in the comments.
Go to the rest of the story...